Literacy Tips

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of January 21st

posted by Courtney Richardson

What is Guided Reading? By James Cannon

“It’s not unusual to hear the term guided reading used to describe small-group instruction. But does that term mean the same thing to everyone? Some teachers, any time they meet and read with small groups, call it guided reading regardless of the text they use, or the instructional focus of the lesson.” Read the rest of Jimi Cannon’s article on guided reading at here. He does a great job of explaining the essential elements of guided reading and why it is effective.

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of January 14th

posted Jan 14, 2018, 7:19 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Jan 14, 2018, 7:19 PM ]

Improving Reading Through One-to-One Matching

I'm sharing this tip via video. How can you get students to use one-to-one matching? Check out this video for concrete advice about helping readers at levels A, B, C, and beyond. I also discuss when students should use their reading finger and when they should put it away.

Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of January 7th

posted Jan 7, 2018, 5:51 PM by Courtney Richardson

Making a Difference with Guided Reading

I recently visited a wonderful school in Pinellas County, Florida, High Point Elementary. For the past few years, they’ve been implementing “Next Steps” guided reading K-5 using the Literacy Footprints Guided Reading Support System ( Florida uses test scores to evaluate each school. The State assigns a letter grade from A-F. High Point Elementary went from a D to a B grade in just two years. This seven minute video explains how they achieved these amazing results and includes an interview with their Reading Specialist, Karen Cangemi. Grab a cup of tea or coffee and watch this short video. I promise it is worth your time. 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 31st

posted Jan 4, 2018, 2:51 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Jan 4, 2018, 2:52 PM ]

Guided Reading: Providing Deliberate Practice to Help Students Succeed

Do you have students in your classroom who are not easily discouraged and pick themselves up and try again even when something is hard? It’s great working with these students. But what about the other kind of students, the ones that can’t seem to stick with anything and are easily discouraged? I recently finished reading Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. It made me think that it’s possible to help these easily discouraged students gain what Angela terms grit. How do we teach kids that their own efforts can improve their future?
I found many takeaways in Angela’s book, but one is how guided reading is a perfect opportunity to provide what the author calls deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is something that successful people use to improve performance in all aspects of life.
To learn how to use deliberate practice to help students, check out Michele's full article.
Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 24th

posted Dec 23, 2017, 8:20 AM by Courtney Richardson

Teach a New Sight Word Bookmark

Teach a New Sight Word (pages 78-79, NSFGR) is one of the most important Word Study procedures for teachers to learn. Watch the video link of Jan doing it (Emergent Video Link 6), then work in pairs with one teacher acting as the student. Choose several sight words from the lists on pages 317-320 NSFGR and practice teaching a word to one another. Repeat this several times being careful not to skip any steps. 
I’ve noticed that many teachers keep their NSFGR book open to pages 78-79 as they practice What’s Missing, Mix and Fix, Table Writing, and Write and Retrieve. To help teachers use the procedures with ease, I created a bookmark that acts as a “cheat sheet.” The Teach a New Sight Word Bookmark is found on the Resources page under the Guided Word Study file.

Written by: Ellen Lewis, Guided Reading Consultant,

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 17th

posted Dec 18, 2017, 7:51 AM by Courtney Richardson


A first-grade teacher emailed me last month asking for help with grouping. After assessing her students, she had more groups than she could manage. This is a common occurrence at all grade levels. Here are some tips for creating flexible small groups:
1. Use the Assessment Summary Charts to summarize the data on individual students. There is a chart for each reading stage, pre-A through fluent. You can download the charts from
2. Consider a range of instructional text levels when forming small instructional groups. Students are rarely at a specific level like a D or a P. They are more likely a C/D or P/Q/R. Look beyond the accuracy level and analyze the types of errors, the fluency, and the child’s comprehension. Once you determine the instructional ranges, select groups based on your focus. You might have a group of students reading at text levels P/Q who need to improve accuracy and fluency, or another group at Q/R who may need to work on deeper comprehension. 
3. If a student doesn’t fit well into any group, teach the student individually with the 10-minute lesson plan or work with your teammates to share students.
4. Consider regrouping every few weeks. As your students make progress, update the assessment summary chart and create new groupings. Keep your groups flexible and temporary. Always remember to Assess – Decide – Guide so that every student becomes a better reader.
I was recently asked this question: “Is there any research or reason you came up with that particular way of teaching sight words?” The procedures for teaching a sight word are grounded in the work of Marie Clay and Grace Fernaldt and my years of personal research and experience. I experimented with many procedures before I settled on the Four Steps, and I have found them to be efficient and effective. 
Some children develop a haphazard way of attending to print that can interfere with their developing a system of remembering and retrieving words. The Four Steps help children build a memory trace. The first procedure, What's Missing?, teaches children to study the word in detail, left to right. Mix and fix uses a kinesthetic-tactile approach by having children construct the word out of magnetic letters. Tracing on the table again engages tactile learning, and Write and Retrieve helps children build automaticity with writing and remembering the word. The Four Steps should be done in sequence because they utilize a gradual-release model of learning. 
See Emergent Video 6 (Next Step Forward in Guided Reading).

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 10th

posted Dec 10, 2017, 2:37 PM by Courtney Richardson   [ updated Dec 10, 2017, 2:38 PM ]

Implementation with Fidelity

Whenever we try a new strategy or practice, it’s important to implement it as designed to ensure we get the best results. The same is true when utilizing the guided reading lesson formats designed by Jan Richardson.
The implementation checklists that follow were created to make sure teachers include all of the components of Jan Richardson’s guided reading plans and focus on the amount of time recommended for each component. 
Teachers can use these checklists as a self-assessment to set goals and to ensure they are using the format with fidelity. Administrators and coaches can use them as they observe guided reading lessons to structure what they are seeing in the framework of Jan Richardson’s guided reading plans.

Written by: Loren Schnell, Elementary Literacy Coach, Livonia Public Schools​

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of December 3rd

posted Dec 4, 2017, 5:47 AM by Courtney Richardson

Teaching Vocabulary to Fluent Readers
Last week a teacher asked me to clarify the difference between the vocabulary portion and the word study portion on the fluent lesson plan. This week’s tip will explain how vocabulary is taught in the fluent lesson plan. All page references are from Next Step Forward in Guided Reading (Richardson, 2016).
Introducing New Vocabulary – Fluent readers should be able to figure out most new words by using vocabulary strategies. However, if there are new words or important concepts students would not be able to figure out by themselves, briefly introduce the words using the four steps on pages 235–236.
Prompting during Reading – If students need more scaffolding on using strategies to figure out the meaning of new words, use Module 7 on page 264. As you work with individuals, use one of these prompts:
Were there any words you didn’t understand? 
What can you do to figure it out? 
Are there clues in the sentence?
Can you use any text features to tell me more about the word? 
Is the word in the glossary?
Can you substitute a word that makes sense? 
Teaching After Reading – Select a challenging word from the text and model one of the vocabulary strategies using the card on page 329.
Word Study – If students need more explicit instruction on common prefixes, suffixes, or Greek and Latin roots, select a word from the text and discuss other words that are similar. After your brief explanation, distribute white boards and dictate words for students to write. For example, you might teach the –tion feature in the word action. Then have students write transportation, nation, and solution.
New Word List – Choose two words from the story for students to add to their New Word List (See Appendix L in Next Step Forward in Guided Reading). These words might be ones you defined in the introduction or words you discussed after reading. Encourage students to use the new words in discussion and in their writing. Every few weeks take a few minutes from the guided reading lesson to test students on the words. See Fluent Video 4 (Next Step Forward in Guided Reading). 

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 26th

posted Nov 27, 2017, 10:34 AM by Courtney Richardson

Analyzing Relationships: Using Compare and Contrast with Yellow Questions 

Learning to compare and contrast different ideas deepens students’ understanding of what they read. How should you begin? Have students think of a question that compares and contrasts concepts, characters, or story elements. This can work for both fiction and nonfiction books. You can introduce this during a whole-class read aloud. You might ask students to compare two characters in a story. How are Frog and Toad alike? How are they different? They can also compare two different stories they have heard. How are the story elements in Cinderella like the elements in Sleeping Beauty? Comparing and contrasting key ideas in nonfiction may present some challenges. However, learning this strategy will help students better understand increasingly complex text they read as they advance through grade levels. How are frogs and toad similar? How are they different? You can have students practice asking a question to a partner and having the partner answer it after they finish reading.
In the video below, literacy expert Jan Richardson begins by making a chart with second graders. The chart compares and contrasts two different kinds of deer in All About Deer, a nonfiction Explore the World book they read. Students then pick two deer and write about how they are the same and how they are different. Note how Jan first models how to do the task and then supports students as they make their charts and then begin writing. She provides extra support with the Yellow Questions card from our Comprehension Box Set. Click on the following link to view the video of a guided reading lesson on using yellow questions with a 2nd grade guided reading group: Michele Dufresne's Teaching Tips

Written by: Michele Dufresne, author Pioneer Valley Educational Press

Literacy Tip of the Week: Week of November 19th

posted Nov 20, 2017, 6:17 AM by Courtney Richardson

Follow the Jan Plan

In my work as a “Next Steps” guided reading consultant, I support districts and schools in various states. I have found the best results are achieved when students receive guided reading on a daily basis and their teachers methodically follow “The Jan Plan.” Students are instructed not only in reading strategies and behaviors, but they are also taught appropriate word study, sight words, and guided writing. 
It is helpful if below-level students receive two daily doses of guided reading. For the past several years, I’ve been working with a rural Tennessee school with 75% of students coming into kindergarten already labeled “at-risk.” Last year the students did the tracing of the alphabet book and received two Pre-A lessons per day. At the end of the year, ALL - yes, 100% of the students who came into kindergarten labeled “at-risk” went to 1st grade reading on grade level!
At a school in Wisconsin, we gave struggling readers two guided reading lessons per day. One was taught by the classroom teacher and the other by an interventionist, special education teacher or ELL teacher. After one year of double-dosing “The Jan Plan,” the school reduced their special education referral rates in K-2 from 7-8% to 1.37%.
If you have a student who is not able to be seen by an interventionist, Reading Recover teacher, or a Title 1 teacher for a second daily dose of reading instruction, utilize the 10-minute one-on- one lesson plan found on page 102 of Jan’s book. The school in Wisconsin (referenced above) didn’t have enough Reading Recovery slots for every student who needed intervention, so the classroom teacher gave those students a one-on- one 10-minute lesson in addition to daily, small-group guided reading lessons. Many of the students accelerated to grade level proficiency with the additional 10-minute lesson and did not need additional intervention!
Undoubtedly, following “The Jan Plan” and giving students two doses of daily guided reading lessons can help students reach grade-level proficiency in reading and close their learning gaps!

Written by: Julie Allsworth, Next Steps Guided Reading Consultant,

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